« EdellinenJatka »
land, in the length and the breadth of it, and said "I will give it thee." But Abraham now expatiates through a more ample region, and contemplates a fairer inheritance, an inheritance his own, not in hope, but in possession. Abraham, though following the leading of the Divine Providence, saw the Redeemer's day only afar off: but, in virtue of his relation to God, he has now beheld the dawning of the morning expanded into the pure light of the perfect day. He once felt the events which affected his family, with the emotion natural to a man; he has since beheld them extending their influence to nations which he thought not of; and he now looks forward in holy rapture to that period when he, and his Isaac, and an earthly Canaan, and every thing of a temporal and transitory nature, shall bring their glory and their honour, and lay all at the feet of "Him, who sitteth upon the throne, and before the Lamb."
From Abraham we are removed to a distance of time and place, in which thought is lost, and we seem to have no more interest in him than if he had never existed. But the doctrine of the text brings us so close to him, that we recognise the friend of God, in the midst of myriads of saints in glory; we converse with him, and continue to be instructed by him.
The dust of Abraham sleeps unnoticed and forgotten in the cave of Machpelah; but lift up thine eyes and behold Abraham on high, and Lazarus in his bosom; his spirit united to God the Father of spirits," and to all "the spirits of just men made perfect." "And even that dust" also "rests in hope:" It shall not always be left in the place of the dead; it shall not remain forever a prey to corruption. Abraham purchased a tomb, and buried his Sarah out of his sight; but he has overtaken, regained her, in the regions of eternal day, where virtuous and believing friends meet, never more to be disjoined. Abraham received his Isaac from the wonder-working hand of Heaven, when nature was dead to hope; at the command of God he cheerfully surrendered him again, and devoted him upon the altar: again he receives him to newness of life, and that darling son lives to put his hand upon his eyes. But they were not long disunited; the son has overtaken the parents they rejoice in God, and in one another; they are the children and heirs of the resurrection; "they are as the angels of God in heaven."
"I am the God of Isaac." This Isaac the heir of Abraham's possessions, of his faith, and of his virtues, was on earth united to the God of the spirits of all flesh, by many tender and important relations: by piety, by filial confidence, by goodness, by patience and submission, on his part; by election, by special favour, by highness of destination, on the part of his heavenly Father. Yet these distinguished advantages exempted him not from the stroke of affliction. Many years did this heir of the promises, this chosen seed, "in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed," many years did he go childless. Early in life was he visited with the loss of sight, and thereby exposed to much mortification and dejection of spirit. Children are at length given him, and they prove the torment of his life; they excite a war betwixt nature and grace in his own breast; discord and jealousy arm them against each other; he is in danger of "losing them both in one day." The one must be banished from his father's house, the other mingles with idolators. Behold a wretched, blind old man, a prey to "grief of heart." But these things, on the other hand, dissolved not, interrupted not his covenant relation to God: they served but to cement and strengthen the divine friendship: and death which, to human apprehension, separates every connexion, and indeed tears asunder every mortal tie, only brought him into a clearer light, and to intercourse and intimacy, which can never expire.
"I am the God of Jacob." In all the wanderings, in all the dangers, in all the distresses of this patriarch; in all his successes, all his acquisitions, Vol. 11.
all his joys, we discover the relation of God to him, expressed in these words; and we behold the presence of God with him whithersoever he went, constantly relieving the wretchedness of one state; dignifying and supporting the felicity of the other. This gave him security from the violence of an incensed brother; this cheered the solitude of Luz, and turned it into a Bethel; by this the slumbers of a head reposed on a pillow of stone were made refreshing and instructive; this repressed and overbalanced the rapacity of Laban; this supported and sanctified the loss of Joseph: this sweetened the descent into Egypt, and dissipated the gloom of death; by this, though dead, he exists, though silent, he speaketh, "absent from the body he is present with the Lord;" the moment of his departure is on the wing to overtake that of his redemption from the power of the grave. Before God, the distance shrinks into nothing. That word, that one little word, I AM, unites the era of nature's birth with that of its dissolution, it joins eternity to eternity," and swallows up death in victory."
The same gracious declaration applies, with equal truth and justice, to every son and daughter "of faithful Abraham," to every Israelite indeed." We speak of departed friends in the past time, we cannot but remember such things were; and were most dear to us ;" but it is the glorious prerogative of Jehovah to employ eternally the present in describing his own essence, and his covenant relation to his people: "I AM THAT I AM.” "I AM the God of thy father," of thy buried, thy lamented brother, friend, lover, child. And to us also is the word of this consolation sent, "Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, I am thy God." "Thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel: Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, 1 will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour." Believing and resting upon this sure foundation, the christian triumphs in the prospect of "departing and being with Christ:" he smiles at the threatening looks of the king of terrors, exults and sings "with the sweet singer of Israel," "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod, and thy staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever :"* and triumphs with the enraptured apostle of the Gentiles, "O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."+
It is a transporting reflection, that the fond wishes and desires of the human heart are warranted, encouraged and supported by the revelation of God: that the life and immortality which we naturally pant after, are brought to light by the gospel. It is pleasant to find wise and good men, guided only by the light of reason, and the honest propensities of nature, cherishing that very belief, cleaving to that very hope, which the text inspires. Cicero, in his beautiful treatise on old age, while he relates the sentiments of others, sweetly delivers his own on this subject. The elder Cyrus according to Xenophon, thus addressed his sons before his death: "Do not imagine, Ö my dear children, that when I leave you, I cease to exist. For even while I was yet with you, my spirit you could not discern; but that it animated this body you were fully assured by the actions which I performed. Be assured it will continue the same, though still you see it not. The glory of illustrious men would sink with them into the grave, were not their surviving spirits capable of ex
ertion, and concerned to rescue their names from oblivion. I can never suffer myself to be persuaded, that the man lives only while he is in the body, and dies when it is dissolved; or that the soul loses all intelligence on being separated from an unintelligent lump of clay; but rather that, on being liberated from all mixture with body, pure and entire, it enters upon its true intellectual existence. At death, any one may discover what becomes of the material part of our frame: all sinks into that from which it arose, every thing is resolved into its first principle; the soul alone is apparent neither while it is with us, nor when it departs. What so much resembles death as sleep? Now the powers of the mind, in sleep, loudly proclaim their own divinity: free and unfettered, the soul plunges into futurity, ascends its native sky. Hence we may conclude how enlarged those powers, will be, when undepressed, unrestrained by the chains of flesh. Since these things are so, consider and reverence me as a tutelary deity. But, granting that the mind were to expire with the body, nevertheless, out of reverence to the immortal gods, who support and direct this fair fabric of nature, piously, affectionately cherish the memory of your affectionate father." The great Roman orator puts these words into the mouth of Cato, in addressing his young friends Scipio and Lælius. "Those excellent men, your fathers, who were so dear to me in life, I consider as still alive: and indeed, as now enjoying a state of being which alone deserves to be dignified with the name of life. For as long as we are shut up in this dungeon of sense, we have to toil through the painful and necessary drudgery of life, and to accomplish the laborious task of an hireling. The celestial spirit is, as it were, depressed, degraded from its native seat, and plunged into the mire of this world, a state repugnant to its divine nature and eternal duration." And again, And again, "Nobody shall ever persuade me, Scipio, that your father Paullus, and your two grandfathers, Paullus and Africanus, and many other eminent men whom it is unnecessary to mention, would have attempted and achieved so many splendid actions, which were to extend their influence to posterity, had they not clearly discerned that they had interest in, and a connexion with the ages of futurity, and with generations yet unborn. Can you imagine, that I may talk a little of myself, after the manner of old men, can you imagine, that I would have submitted to so many painful toils, by night and by day, in the forum, in the senate, in the field, had I apprehended that my existence, and my reputation, were to terminate with my life? Were this the case, would it not have been much better to doze away in indolence an insignificant and useless life? But I do not know how the soul incessantby exerting its native vigour, still sprung eagerly forward into ages yet to come, and seized them as its own.
"I feel myself transported with delight at the thought of again seeing and joining your fathers, whom on earth I highly respected and dearly loved; and, borne on the wings of hope and desire, I am speeding my flight to mingle in the honoured society, not of those only whom on earth I knew, and with whom I have conversed; but of those also of whom I have heard and read, and the history of whose lives, I myself have written, for the instruction of mankind. I have the consolation of reflecting, that I have not lived wholly in vain and I quit my station in life without regret, as the wayfaring man, whose face is towards home, bids farewell to the inn where he had stopped for a little refreshment on his way. O glorious day, when I shall be admitted into the divine assembly of the wise and good! When I shall make an eternal escape from this sink of corruption, and the din of folly! When, amidst the happy throng of the immortals, I shall find thee also, my son, my Cato, best, most amiable of men! On thy ashes, I bestowed the honours of the tomb. Ah! why did not mine rather receive them from thy hand! But your spirit, I know it, has never forsaken me; but, casting back many a longing, linger
ing look to your afflicted father, has removed to that region of purity and peace, whither you were confident I should shortly follow you. And I feel, I feel our separation cannot be of long continuance.
"If, indulging myself in this fond hope, my young friends, I am under the power of delusion, it is a sweet, it is an innocent delusion. I will hold it fast and never let it go, while I live. I despise the sneer of the witling, who would attempt to laugh me out of my immortality. Suppose him in the right, and myself under a mistake, he shall not have the power to insult me, nor shall I have the mortification of feeling his scorn, when we are both gone to the land of everlasting forgetfulness."
How pleasing the thought, my dear christian friends, I again repeat it, how pleasing the thought, that the honest propensities of nature, the fairest conclusions of unassisted reason, and the most ardent breathings of truth and virtue, are here in unison with the clearest and most explicit declarations of the holy scriptures!
But the sacred Dove soars into a region which nature and reason could never have explored. Revelation, to the immortality of the soul, has added the resurrection of the body. And "wherefore should it be thought a thing incredible that God should raise the dead ?" The Spirit says to "these dry bones, Live.” "We believe that Jesus died and rose again." What a sure ground of hope, that "them also who sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him!" Delightful reflection! Who would be so unjust to God, and so unkind to himself, as to part with it? How it smooths the rugged path of life, how it tempers the bitterness of affliction, how it dissipates the horrors of the grave! One child sleeps in the dust, the diameter of the globe separates me from another, but the word of life, "I AM the God of thy seed," rescues that one from corruption, and puts the other in my embrace. Time dwindles into a
point, the earth melts away, "the trumpet sounds,' ""the dead arise incorruptible." Behold all things are made new!" New heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." "Arise, let us go hence," and "sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.”
HISTORY OF MOSES.
HEBREWS XI. 24, 25, 26, 27.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; estreming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
THE history of mankind contains many a lamentable detail of the sad reverses to which human affairs are liable; of the affluent, by unforeseen, unavoidable calamity, tumbled into indigence of greatness in eclipse; of the mighty fallen of princes dethroned, banished, put to death. In some instances of this sort, we see the unhappy sufferers making a virtue of necessity, and bearing their misfortunes with a certain degree of patience and magnanimity; but in general, sudden and great distress either sours or depresses the spirit, and men submit to the will of Providence with so ill a grace, that it is evident they are not under the power of religion, and that they flee not for consolation to the prospects of immortality.
We are this evening to contemplate one of those rare examples of true greatness of mind, which made a voluntary sacrifice of the most enviable situation, and the most flattering prospects, which human life admits of; and that at an age when the heart is most devoted to the pursuit of pleasure, most susceptible of the allurements of ambition. It is the singular instance of Moses, the prophet and legislator of Israel, who, brought up from infancy in a court, instructed in all the learning of the Egyptians, treated as the heir of empire, and encouraged to aspire to all that the heart naturally covets, and that Providence bestows, on the most favoured of mankind; at the age of forty cheerfully resigned all these advantages, and preferred the life of a slave with his brethren, and of a shepherd in the land of Midian, among strangers, to all the luxury and splendour belonging to the son of Pharaoh's daughter, to all the dazzling hopes of royalty or of power next to majesty.
Scripture, in its own admirable concise method, dispatches the history of this great man's life, from his infancy to his fortieth year, in a few short words, namely, "and Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egytians, and was mighty in words and in deeds :"* as not deeming information concerning attainments in human science, or feats of martial prowess, worthy of the knowl edge of posterity, compared to the triumphs of his faith, the generous workings of his public spirit, and the noble ardour of fervent piety.
Acts vii. 22